Kanrin Maru

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A painting of the Kanrin maru, by yôga painter Iizuka Reiji, on display at the Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall
  • Other Names: Japan
  • Japanese: 咸臨丸 (kanrin maru)

The Kanrin Maru was the first ship to cross the Pacific Ocean with a Japanese pilot, doing so in the early months of 1860, as part of the first Japanese embassy to the United States. It is generally considered Japan's second Western-style modern warship, after the Kankô Maru,[1] though the Shôheimaru was constructed by Satsuma han and gifted to the shogunate around the same time.

The ship was a 292-ton, screw-driven corvette of Dutch construction. It was 49 meters long, and could travel at up to six knots.[1] Originally named the Japan, the Dutch-built ship first arrived in Nagasaki on 1857/8/5.[2]

Renamed the Kanrin-maru, the ship set out from Yokohama along with the USS Powhatan on 1860/1/19 (Feb 10), bound for San Francisco. Captained by Katsu Kaishû and commanded by Navy Minister Kimura Kaishû, its crew of 96 Japanese was joined by a number of American sailors and one American officer, since no Japanese crew had ever made such a long journey. The Powhatan carried the three lead ambassadors and their direct entourage, while the remainder of the more than 170 members of the mission rode on the Kanrin Maru.

The Kanrin Maru was damaged in a storm during the voyage, and returned directly to Japan after receiving repairs in San Francisco, while the Powhatan continued onwards to Panama.

During the Boshin War in 1868, the Kanrin Maru sought refuge in Shimizu harbor (today, Shizuoka City), running up a white flag of surrender while its crew attempted repairs on the ship. Despite this flag of surrender, however, pro-Imperial troops bombarded the ship with cannon fire, boarded it, and killed many of the crew. This has come to be known as "the Kanrin Maru Incident" (J: Kanrin maru jiken).[3]

In 1869, following the fall of the shogunate, the Kanrin Maru joined the Shôheimaru in shipping goods to and from Hokkaido for colonial development efforts.[4]

The ship sank in 1871 near Kikonai, Hokkaidô while carrying settlers from Hakodate to Otaru. Efforts to find the wreck have thus far been unsuccessful.[5]


  • Gallery labels and pamphlet from exhibition "Samurai in New York." Museum of the City of New York. 25 June - 7 Nov. 2010.
  1. 1.0 1.1 Gallery label, Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall.
  2. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 2 (1937), 393.
  3. Oliver Statler, Japanese Inn, 273-274.
  4. Gallery labels, Museum of the Meiji Restoration, Kagoshima, Sept 2014.[1]
  5. Isayama Takuya, "Mission fails to find Kanrin Maru shipwreck, but search continues," Asahi Shimbun, 29 Nov 2019.[2]